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Dressing For the Jury -- It's More Complicated Than You Think

By Cristina Yu, Esq. | Last updated on

Dressing your client for a jury is more complicated that it might seem. Blanket advice, such as "have your client wear glasses," is supported by research for some cases, but not for others, for some types of clients, but not for others.

The best way to decide how to dress your client for a jury is to hire a jury consultant and work with at least one focus group. At the other end of the spectrum, the least you can do is find an organization such as Friends Outside to provide your in-custody criminal defendant with civilian clothes so he doesn't have to appear wearing a prison uniform.

Here are a few quick tips on dressing a client for the jury.


Eyeglasses are fraught. They make a client look more intelligent and honest, but less attractive and physically threatening. (Attractiveness is important because jurors are biased in favor of attractive people in some types of cases.) Eyeglasses are associated with lower rates of guilty verdicts for violent crimes. However -- and this might have implications for civil cases -- glasses are associated with higher rates of guilty verdicts in white-collar crimes. Glasses are a double-edged sword, so you will want to look at the research before deciding whether your client should wear them.

Oversized Clothing

The common wisdom is that too-large clothing makes your client seem more vulnerable, less threatening and more innocent. F. Lee Bailey famously dressed Patty Hearst in clothing several sizes too large for her bank robbery trial, but she was still convicted. Hard evidence is scanty, but John T. Molloy's research found that in personal injury cases, at least, plaintiffs were more credible if they wore outfits one size too large.

Ridiculous Clothing

Clothing should reflect respect for the court and for the jury as well as some awareness of the case. If your client is on trial for conspiracy, don't have him dress just like all his codefendants. If she's the plaintiff in a personal injury suit, don't have her waltz in on four-inch stillettos. A fat cat accused of fraud (or anything else) might do well to leave his ascot and gold Rolex at home. It might be a sad reflection on our society, but plaintiffs in sexual harassment cases should probably dress conservatively.

Prison Uniform

Allowing a criminal defendant to go to trial wearing a prison uniform might evoke sympathy with the jury, but think carefully before taking this approach. If you decide to dress him in civilian clothes, be sure to keep some in your car (don't forget black socks) in case something goes wrong at the jail. Do not accept clothing directly from family members -- contraband might be hidden in them.

General advice

There are a lot of opinions, but very little scientific evidence to guide us in dressing our clients for the jury. If you don't have the budget for a focus group, use your best judgment and solicit outside opinions to make sure your client's clothing is making the right impression. In all cases, make sure the clothing conforms to the rules on court attire. What the client wears is probably less important than his demeanor, so make sure that he's comfortable in his clothes.

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